Since well before the March launch of the Nintendo Switch, observers have been wondering whether the system would get robust software support from major third-party publishers or if it would instead have to lean more heavily on Nintendo exclusives and games from smaller independent developers. Now, new comments from Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan seem to confirm how porting modern games to such low-powered hardware could be a difficult bottleneck to get through.
In a Reddit AMA thread last month, Kaplan vaguely said that “getting [Overwatch] on the Switch is very challenging for us, but we’re always open-minded about exploring possible platforms.” In a follow-up interview with the UK’s Express newspaper published today, Kaplan elaborated. “I think the problem is we’ve really targeted our min spec in a way that we would have to revisit performance and how to get on that platform,” he said.
That’s a striking admission, especially considering that the nearly year-old Overwatch doesn’t exactly require a top-of-the-line PC to play; Blizzard asks for an Intel Core i3 processor and GTX 460 or better at a minimum. The game’s strong visual design makes it technically playable at extremely low resolutions too, which could make a port workable even if a full 1080p image couldn’t be achieved on the Switch.
While we love the Switch’s hybrid portable/console form factor, that design comes with an Nvidia Tegra X1-based system-on-a-chip that can’t really compete with other modern console and PC specs. And while a planned Switch port of a five-year-old title like Skyrim is nice, it’s troubling to see Kaplan admitting to difficulty getting a recent, relatively low-end 3D title to work on the system.
At the same time, Kaplan left the door open for an Overwatch Switch port in the future, reiterating that he “always like[s] to tell people we’re very open-minded about what platforms we could be on. Just because we’re not on a platform right now, it doesn’t mean we won’t reconsider it in the future, so we stay aware of all these things.”
Kaplan also said that he wasn’t exactly eager to tackle the logistical headaches involved in adding a fourth Overwatch platform (on top of PC, Xbox One and PS4). “It’s already challenging right now maintaining three platforms and patching simultaneously, which is something that we’ve finally been able to achieve,” he told Express. “Adding a third [console] ecosystem to that just adds a lot of complexity for us, as well.”
That gets to the heart of the pitfalls and potential for Nintendo Switch’s third-party software support: all things being equal, publishers aren’t going to want to go through the headache of supporting yet another new platform unless they see a huge, untapped potential audience of Switch owners first. But with Switch supplies still routinely selling out at retail, and GameStop predicting high demand through the end of the year, perhaps that potential audience of Switch owners could hit too-big-to-ignore levels before too long.
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